S.H.I.E.L.D. at 50: bigger than it has ever been

Jack Kirby's cover for Strange Tales 135 in 1965

Jack Kirby’s cover for Strange Tales 135 in 1965

This summer is the golden anniversary of S.H.I.E.L.D., Marvel Comics’ answer to the spy craze of the 1960s.

Marvel was barely hanging on at the start of the 1960s. Starting with The Fantastic Four in 1961, the comics company began a comeback. With new characters and revamped version of old characters, Marvel had momentum in the mid-1960s.

One obvious trend was the spy craze. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby already had launched a World War II war comic, Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos. The duo decided to also bring Fury into the “present day” of the 1960s and, an issue of the FF, established Fury survived the war and now worked for the CIA.

With S.H.I.E.L.D., Lee and Kirby took the concept a step further, establishing their own spy agency, which recruited Fury to be its new leader. S.H.I.E.L.D. even relied on Tony Stark to supply it with futuristic weaponry.

From its inception, S.H.I.E.L.D. had an uneven run. Lee hired Jim Steranko on the basis of his raw talent. Steranko chose S.H.I.E.L.D., in part because the comic wasn’t a huge success.

Steranko made his mark but was gone before the end of 1968. After his departure, there were attempts at revivals but none really took hold.

All of that changed in the 21st century. Marvel decided to make its own movies, starting with 2008’s Iron Man, starring Robert Downey Jr. S.H.I.E.L.D. was there at the start and, in an epilogue after the end titles, the audience saw a new Nick Fury in the person of Samuel L. Jackson.

Eventually, the Jackson version of Fury appeared in several Marvel movies (most recently in Avengers: Age of Ultron). Marvel, after it was acquired by Walt Disney Co., expanded into television. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been renewed by ABC (another Disney property) for a third season.

S.H.I.E.L.D. now is bigger than it has ever been. Middle age is treating the Lee-Kirby creation pretty well.

The nemesis of S.H.I.E.L.D. from the start was Hydra, a villainous organization. Lee has said (as early as the mid 1970s) that S.H.I.E.L.D. was inspired by James Bond movies and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. In 2015, there’s an U.N.C.L.E. movie but no Thrush (the villainous organization featured in the original 1964-68 television series).

Yet, in both movies and television, Hydra is still going strong. Meanwhile, with 007 movies, SPECTRE has been on the inactive list because of legal disputes until this year’s 007 film SPECTRE. Life can be funny.

Captain America and spies prove to be big box office

Captain America: The Winter Soldier's poster

Captain America: The Winter Soldier’s poster

Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which mixed superheroes and spies, generated an estimated $96.2 million in U.S. ticket sales, according to the Box Office Mojo website.

The movie, starring Chris Evans as Cap, set a record for an April movie opening, according to The Wrap entertainment news site.

The film concerns Cap becoming increasingly wary of S.H.I.E.L.D., the Marvel Comics spy agency. The movie addresses various plot threads going back to 2008’s Iron Man, the first production from Marvel Studios. One of two epilogues in the end titles provides a teaser for next year’s sequel to 2012’s Marvel’s The Avengers. A third Captain America movie has been scheduled for May 2016.

Meanwhile, the storyline of Captain America: The Winter Soldier will affect the ABC series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. USA Today has a story that details how in a story you can view BY CLICKING HERE. Both Marvel Studios and ABC are owned by Walt Disney Co.

Also, BusinessWeek has a story about Kevin Feige, Marvel Studios boss and producer of its movies. You can read it by CLICKING HERE.

Stan Lee to make appearance on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

The SHIELD helicarrier in the first SHIELD story in Strange Tales No. 135.

The SHIELD helicarrier in the first SHIELD story in Strange Tales No. 135.

Stan Lee, the 91-year-old former editor-in-chief at Marvel Comics, is going to make an appearance on the Feb. 4 installment of ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. series.

Lee gave AN INTERVIEW TO IGN where he talked about the appearance and a bit about the original comic book. An excerpt:

IGN TV: My first question with you appearing on S.H.I.E.L.D. is, what took so long?! Were you saying, “Hey, why am I not in the first episode of this show?”

Stan Lee: Oh, I like the way you think! I felt the same way. Why was it not called Stan Lee and the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.? [Laughs] No, I’m glad that they gave that one little cameo, though. It’s a little bit longer than a cameo. It’s almost a supporting role. Instead of the usual three or four or five seconds, I think this took almost half a minute.

IGN: You were there for the beginning of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Lee: Well, I’m glad they invited me, because I did the first S.H.I.E.L.D. story in the comics with Jack Kirby. I love the whole concept of S.H.I.E.L.D.. I don’t know if you’d remember, but years ago, there was a television show called The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and U.N.C.L.E. was a secret organization and so forth. I got the idea for S.H.I.E.L.D. from U.N.C.L.E.. I thought it’d be great to have an organization like that, but because we were doing comic books, I’d make it bigger and more colorful and more far out. We had a book called Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos, which we stopped publishing after awhile. The fans would wonder, “What happened to Sgt. Fury? Where is he now?” So it occurred to me that if I did this group S.H.I.E.L.D., why not put Sergeant Fury at the head of it, except he’d now be a Colonel. So he’d be Colonel Fury and the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. — and that’s how it all started. I loved the idea, and I’m so glad that it’s a TV series. As it moves along, I hope it just gets wilder and wilder.

Nick Fury's first post World War II appearance

Nick Fury’s first post World War II appearance


Lee’s memory is a little faulty in the interview.

Actually, the Sgt. Fury World War II title continued to be published after S.H.I.E.L.D. debuted in 1965. Thus, for a few years, Nick Fury appeared in two different titles (Sgt. Fury and Strange Tales, which S.H.I.E.L.D. shared with Dr. Strange) with stories set in two different time periods.

Also, Lee and Kirby, who created the Fury character to begin with, first established Nick Fury had survived World War II in Fantastic Four No. 21, published in 1963. At that point, Fury was with the CIA. He was still with that agency when he was recruited to lead S.H.I.E.L.D. in Strange Tales No. 135.

In the comics, S.H.I.E.L.D. didn’t hit its stride until Jim Steranko took over as writer-artist in 1966-68.

Marvel to re-issue Steranko’s S.H.I.E.L.D. stories

Jim Steranko's cover for Strange Tales No. 167

Jim Steranko’s cover for Strange Tales No. 167, climax of the Yellow Claw storyline.

Marvel Comics is re-issuing artist-writer Jim Steranko’s classic run on Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. in September in time for a new S.H.I.E.L.D. series on ABC.

The trade paperback is priced at $34.99 but can be PRE-ORDERED ON AMAZON.COM FOR $24.79. It reprints the Nick Fury stories from Strange Tales Nos. 151-168 and issues 1-3 and 5 of Fury’s own title. (No. 4 was an expanded re-telling by Roy Thomas and Frank Springer of the S.H.I.E.L.D. origin story by first done by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in Strange Tales No. 135.)

Steranko took over as S.H.I.E.L.D. artist with issue 151. Jack Kirby, Fury’s co-creator, did rough layouts with Steranko doing finished pencils and inks. Eventually, Steranko took over as writer as well.

Steranko came in the middle of a storyline started by Stan Lee involving a new mysterious Supreme Hydra who was a master of disguise. Steranko eventually revealed the character to be none other than Baron Wolfgang Von Strucker, Fury’s nemesis from World War II.

Steranko had another long storyline reviving a 1950s villain, the Yellow Claw. The politically incorrect named villain is revealed in the last installment to be merely a robot. It was all part of an elaborate, chess-like game played by Dr. Doom and a sophisticated robot.

James Bond makes a "cameo" in Strange Tales No. 164

007’s “cameo” in Strange Tales No. 164

Steranko clearly was a James Bond fan. One of his stories featured a weapons expert named Boothroyd. In Strange Tales No. 164, the Sean Connery version of Bond pays a one-panel visit to a S.H.I.E.L.D. barber shop front.

The new paperback is coming out on Sept. 24. Walt Disney Co.’s ABC will air its new S.H.I.E.L.D. series this fall, built around Clark Gregg’s agent seen in a number of Marvel movies, including 2012’s The Avengers. When last seen, it appeared Gregg’s Agent Coulson had died. Then again, the audience only had the word of Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) about that. The S.H.I.E.L.D. series is overseen by Whedon, who directed the Avengers film.

Meanwhile, here’s a tip of the cap to TANNER’S DOUBLE O SECTION BLOG, where we first read about this.

2000 HMSS STORY: DON’T YIELD, BACK S.H.I.E.L.D.